At a farm in the California Salinas Valley, Elisa Allen nurtures her chrysanthemums while her rancher husband talks business with men down the road. Her husband returns from his successful business deal, and they decide to go in town to celebrate later that night. Henry goes off to work, and Elisa returns to her chrysanthemums. She's interrupted by the arrival of a male tinkerer looking for work. Elisa and the tinkerer have an interesting conversation with sexual tension, and Elisa seems to develop a connection with him. This connection culminates when she fervently tells the man of her precious chrysanthemums, and gives him some sprouts. The tinkerer then leaves after fixing pans for Elisa, and she proceeds to take a bath and admire her naked body. Her husband comes home and they depart. As Elisa and her husband head for town, she sees the chrysanthemum sprouts she had given the man lying off the side of the road. Elisa turns away from Henry and cries. Steinbeck suggests that it is often difficult for marriage to sustain passion.
The central character is Elisa Allen, a married woman in her mid-30’s that spends most of her time around her farmhouse tending flowers while her husband works. Elisa is portrayed as a masculine woman, as her face is described as being “handsome”, her work as “over-powerful” and her fingers “strong” (398). Despite these masculine attributes, Elisa has a sexual spirit about her that is primarily evident in her conversation with the tinkerer and her observation of her naked body. Elisa’s strong sexuality hint at her desire for stimulation, and sex is the ultimate stimulation. (It’s safe to assume this is something her husband doesn’t provide, which is why she takes interest in the tinkerer later on). She begins the story bored with life and ends it unfulfilled and sad with life (when she cries after seeing her discarded chrysanthemums). For this reason, Elisa is strictly a static character.
The main supporting...